Tag Archives: Apsara

California Syrah

We recently got together with wine drinking friends in Sonoma to enjoy an evening of California Syrah. Our reference point for exceptional California Syrah has always been the wines of Sine Qua Non. Over the last few years however, we have become increasing interested in those coming out of the Las Madres Vineyard in Carneros. Vie, Eric Kent, Myriad and Apsara have year after year made fantastic wines that are not only enjoyable, but highly affordable. The night was a treat for us as we got a chance to try several wines never tasted before.

Given the number of wines, and the pace tasted, observations are a quick snapshot impression. In this type of tasting, generally gives us a sense of whether it is a producer we should keep an eye on to establish a track record for future purchases. Brief observations follow. All wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

White Wine of the Night – 2008 Domaine William Fevre Preuses
Red Wine of the Night – 2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah

Starter Wines – Of the two white wines, the Preuses was the standout. Some initial funk on the nose that blew off quickly, a crisp, balanced, and youthful good drinking Chablis. Nothing out of place, drank very well. The Wayfarer Chardonnay was a completely different taste profile, youthful and floral, a good everyday drinking Chardonnay. The Wayfarer Pinot was ripe, creamy and one dimensional, not a very good showing.

2008 Domaine William Fevre Preuses
2012 Wayfarer Chardonnay
2012 Wayfarer Pinot Noir

Syrah Flight 1 – The 2011 Apsara was spectacular, easily our wine of the night. Tasted at the beginning and end of the evening, was the most balanced, complex and interesting wine. Showed consistent to previous tastings, clean blue and black fruits, oily texture, and fantastic structure. A wine that should age and improve for a considerable length of time. A close second of the evening was the Eric Kent Las Madres Syrah. It held true to the cold climate, Las Madres profile. A perfectly balanced and nuanced wine. Sadly, the Lois Rae was badly corked.

2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah
2011 Eric Kent Las Madres Syrah
2011 Lois Rae Las Madres Syrah

Syrah Flight 2 – Our first time tasting Sonklin Cellars wines, It was fun to compare three vintages in a row. 2010 was our favorite. Round, balanced and approachable. Found it a nice easy drinking Syrah. Styllistically different, enjoyed the 2011 next with its very expressive nose. Finally, the 2009. It was tight at first and appeared to be lean and disjointed. After tasting later in the evening, think it was simply shutdown and needed a good bit of air to open up.

2010 Sonkin Cellars Persona
2011 Sonkin Cellars Persona
2009 Sonkin Cellars Persona

Syrah Flight 3 – A more challenging flight, found the wines “interesting”. The Kale was ok, earthy and medium bodied. The Alban, barrel sample like and showed potential up front, shortly thereafter, heat took center stage. Did not spend as much time with the Campesino as we would have liked given food served. The wine maker is very likeable, a wine we need to revisit over a long evening to fully and fairly evaluate.

2011 Kale Syrah
2006 Alban Pandora
2011 Campesino Syrah

Syrah Flight 4 – Another challenging flight, probably my least favorite of the evening. The Kale and Rhys came across overripe with plum/prune qualities we did not find particularly appealing. In contrast to the Kale and Rhys, the Thirty Seven was brighter, but nothing of note captured our attention. With a personal bais toward the cooler climate Syrahs, was not gravitating toward the later wines / flights as I had hoped.

2010 Kale Syrah
2007 Thirty Seven Syrah
2008 Rhys Syrah

Syrah Flight 5 – Both wines showed somewhat similar to the previous flight from a taste profile standpoint. The Peidrasassi was the more dense of the two wines. This and the previous two flights suffered a bit due to food at the table, and to a certain extent, personal stylistic preference. Have never found value in wines that lean in a plum, prune, and raisin direction.

2011 Herman Story Syrah
2007 Peidrasassi Mr Smith Syrah

Syrah Flight 6 – The Favia left an immediate positive impression. Bright clean blue fruits, was a nice very well made wine. In time, picked up a sweetness that was a touch off putting but did not perceive it as much, the longer it sat in the glass. Would be a good producer to revisit. Have had some excellent Favia in the past. In contrast to it, the Copain was dusty and lean. Did not particularly enjoy this wine.

2007 Favia Syrah
2006 Copain Syrah

A fun evening sampling a lot of wines we do not regularly drink, but perhaps should!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine


Apsara Cellars

We recently got together with Robin Akhurst of Apsara Cellars. Apsara is a relatively new producer that makes very limited quantities of quality California Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. We met Robin at a Las Madres Vineyard Lunch a few years back and have kept in touch since. He was generous to share with us several current release wines. No question, they are very well made, and might add, very reasonably priced!

2012 Apsara Sauvignon Blanc – Light green tint to the color with a green apple nose and palate. It is crisp and clean, a textbook California Sauvignon Blanc, crafted with a hint of sulfur on the nose we found appealing. One of the better Sauvignon Blanc we have tasted in some time.

2010 Apsara Las Madres Syrah – Initially, the wine showed very tight and wasn’t revealing much. As it sat in the glass however, began to pickup a pleasant floral nose and cranberry red fruit palate. Revisiting the wine hours later, an interesting transformation took place and started to note blue fruits. A few additional hours after that, it took on an oily black olive quality. Rarely do we hold a wine over until the next day, but did so in this case, and it still drank very well. Plenty of structure remained, fruit still in a great place, think the wine could hold its own open a few more days! Overall, cannot say enough positive things about this wine. Incredible value, excellent balance, good complexity and notable age worthiness.

2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah – At first, thought it a strong contrast to the 2010, showed more ripe fruit initially, and lower acidity. With some time in the glass, it showed more structure. Hours later, noted similar blue fruits as the 2010, and again, hours after that, the black olive component became more predominate. The fruit was dark and round, not as dense as the 2010 but still well integrated. On day two, structure still existed, the fruit softened, yet remained approachable. 2011 was a pretty challenging year for growers and winemakers, this is clearly one of those producers that overcame the odds and put out a great drinking wine.

Apsara’s case production is very limited. The current release Sauvignon Blanc is 85 cases, and Syrah, 65 cases. Both cool climate Syrahs are well made, balanced, complex and age worthy. Really great drinking wines consistent if not superior to other Syrah tasted from the Las Madres Vineyard. Highly recommended and worth getting on their mailing list.

Apsara Website – www.apsaracellars.com

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine